Monday, December 8, 2008

The Christmas Trout

I was just posting a bulletin over at the Baking GALS site and I realized I must be due to post something here too. I was saying that Randy and I baked this weekend and got our boxes in the mail. We put in a bunch of dollar store goodies and some DVDs and my niece was over and wanted to draw the soldiers a thank you picture. I wish I would have scanned the was a Christmas Trout! To be four again...what creativity! I think my New Year's Resolution for next year will be to open myself up creatively. Probably better than my annual resolution to quit smoking (I always succeed since I don't smoke...hey, who doesn't need a sense of accomplishment? lol).
I picked up boxes of Christmas cards and camouflage stockings at the dollar store and some wall decorations and DVDs (still left from my dad's stash he gave us to send over) along with the goodies made up beautiful boxes for both Dustin and Alex. We also sent a box of just cookies, a camouflage stocking and one picture from Katie to Randy's friend Dan.
We took a bunch of pictures and I'll get Randy to post one or two of them soon. I realize I owe you guys some pictures...some from Cookie day, some from the painting I did at Randy's and now some from this round of Baking is looking like I need to learn how to put pictures on here myself since it takes me forever to remember to ask Randy to do it and then it takes him a while to actually do it!
This is the recipe I sent to Dustin. It was one of the last minute add-ons for cookie day (thanks Mom!) and when I saw that Dustin's favorite baked goods were banana nut bread and chocolate chip cookies I knew we had to go with these!

Chunky Monkey Bites
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts
Cream the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the banana and vanilla, mix well. Add the baking powder, salt and baking soda, mix well.
Add the flour and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (we may have added a few extra! lol)
Drop from spoons onto greased cookie sheets, you pick the size cookie you want.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Cool and eat! or send :)

So, that's the latest news...still trying to get the Christmas shopping accomplished...four nieces and so much other family...I like buying things for people but I'm not that fond of shopping! Randy and I went out to Great Lakes Crossing, a mall about 45 mins from my house today before I went to work. It was a nice mall but we didn't even cover half of it. We did well on his shopping though...we're getting there!
My girlfriend stopped by yesterday and she went to Home Depot with me. I got some paint for my own kitchen, so I'll be painting that soon, hopefully very soon! I am just about done with all the homework for two of my current classes. I'm hoping to have them all finished by the end of this week and turned in...then I get a couple weeks before the next ones start, so hopefully I can get the painting done during that time.
We have a party to go to on Saturday and I want to go somewhere and look at ice sculptures...I know a lot of cities have displays and I have never gone to see one but I've been wanting to. Seems like my bf who doesn't have a job would jump on the chance to give me a free gift...hint, hint.... :D
Okay, that's all I've got for tonight...back to work!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cookie Day 2008 report

Well, I am almost recovered from Cookie Day, and only a week later, lol!
We had a nice day of baking, and managed to turn out 30 kinds of cookies this year. One of our last minute add-ins didn't turn out, so that left 29 different types of cookies available for cookie trays. I will post some pics as soon as I get them...I was too tired to take any myself but a few of the participants did take a couple so I just have to gather them.
The biggest hit this year, as always, was the sugar cookies from my mom's recipe. They turned out beautifully. We only made Christmas trees this year to make the trays look more polished..not to mention save us work! Other favorites were the candy cane puffs and sandies. My mom couldn't find her cookie press at the last minute, so we ended up forming the spritz cookies into candy canes. We dyed half the dough red and made both colors into little half inch balls of dough, then rolled them out together into a rope shape. As we put them on the baking trays, we twisted the dough and shaped it into canes. They turned out cute but they didn't hold up all that well on the trays...hard for a thin shaped cookies to survive with all the heavy-weights on the trays!
Some of the cookies we added at the last minute were some Sugarless Star cookies, orange-pineapple drops, Chunky Monkey Bites and Red Velvet Whoopie pies (yes, I slipped up during the baking and called them whoopie cushions!). I will eventually post the recipes for you.
Next year we'll probably be reverting back to the cinnamon spirals (we gave them up this year because we were doing the Cinnamon-sugar cookies) because even though they're a lot of work, they look really nice when done, and taste better than the new ones did.
So, that's the cookie report for today. It has been a crazy crazy week. Baking Sat and Sun last weekend, working and visiting my family Wed...I helped my neice make the cutest turkies out of those striped chocolate cookies and chocolate covered cherries and candy corn, all pasted together with chocolate frosting. She was so excited to give them to everyone at the big family dinner on Thursday!
Randy got a last minute chance to go to Chicago for the weekend, so we stayed up after we got home on Thanksgiving. At about 2:30 am, he went home to sleep for a few hours before the drive to Chicago and I headed off to pick my mom up for Black Friday shopping. We hit our first sale at 4am and shopped straight through until around 10/11 am. We got back to her house, carried in our packages and fell asleep on the couch. We woke up later in the day and headed back out...what a day of shopping! We are not seasoned shoppers by any means...sometimes we do the after-Thanksgiving shopping, sometimes we don't...this year we did it and then some! We stayed out shopping until the stores all closed at 10pm, then headed for my parent's house. I spent the night there, then my mom and I got up the next day and headed to my house to pick up some supplies, then we went to Randy's house and painted his living room and kitchen. I had been planning to do it as a gift for him for a while now and his unexpected trip to Chicago provided the perfect time. The living room looks fabulous....maybe I can get him to post a picture. We worked until after midnight, then drove an hour back to my mom's house with a stop at White Castle as our reward. They have sweet potato fries there, those were good after that long day! I slept late this morning at my parents, helped my mom do a few things, then headed for home and work, what a weekend!
Now, I'm back to catching up on homework and BakingGALS stuff, so if you're one of my bakers, don't worry; we're on track for this round's mailing and things are good. I got an email from the father of this month's soldier. He gave me a little bio and his son's address. I posted the info on the BakingGALS site and I'll be sending out the address right before mailing begins.
And that's all I have to report for tonight....I hope all the blog readers had a wonderful holiday filled with yummy (and nutty!) baked goodies!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Finally Some Pics

Here are some long awaited pics from Round 4. Many thanks to everyone who participated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thank you Baking GALS!!

To all my bakers for team JustAddNuts, I have heard from Jaime, Alex's wife and she gave me permission to post her letter. Apparently the first email she sent me was lost somewhere in cyber land, so this is the one she sent after we figured that'll notice at the end that it has some comments about some of the earlier packages he received. I did tell her I couldn't claim ownership of the first packages but that mine and others were on the way. In the second note she sent, she says that Alex has set up a "sharing station" so that all the American soldiers passing through can grab some goodies as they go by. Jaime says Alex is loving this new duty of sharing our goodies! It sounds like everything got to him in great shape, and the only request he had was for ziplocks or more individual packaging to make the sharing easier. I think next time I send a package out I'll include a box of ziplocks in the mix, to make it easier for the soldiers to pack and take along.

I also want to take the time to thank all of you who baked packages to send out for Round Four. It was extremely successful for our team! I received pictures from some of you, which I'm trying to make into a collage of sorts and post here on the blog. It might take me a while to get that done though, considering my computer inadequacy and the time issues going on right now. I will try to have it done well before round Five starts!
Speaking of Round Five, mailing will take place from Dec 5-18, just in time for think about signing up for another round if you're able.

Here's Jaime's letter:

Hi Val,

My uncle Dennis asked me to contact you. I had sent a email a while back but you must not have received it, they are so easy to get wrong.. those email addresses. So, anyhow you sent a wonderful package to my husband SFC Alex Herrera in Iraq. He is greatly appreciative. Alex is a amazing man! He is such a kind loving caring person, sometimes it is hard for me to think of him as a soldier. He joined the US Army when he was twenty, he was a misguided young man at the time, I know I dated him then But still a special person none the less. I remember dropping him off at the bus for basic training and watching him walk away and crying all the way home, not knowing how many more times I would be dropping this man off to go somewhere. He was full time military for many years, a Gulf War veteran before he was 30. He joined the reserves, started attending college and we started our family. All was well until 911 which was when he really felt he needed to be involved. As God must have know he had this desire, he was deployed in 2004 to Iraq for a 18 month deployment. He returned home my same wonderful man, husband but secretly couldn't wait to go back. This was hard to understand even for me because I was never a Full time Army wife, but for some reason it is completely clear to me now. Alex is excellent at his job, he has skills that not every man has. He uses these skills at a time of need which is very important to him. He does his job so others don't have to. His primary job in all of his overseas tours, and man I think have lost count, is to train soldiers to protect themselves. He has trained American troops before heading into Iraq, which is so rewarding for him. A lot of these guys are young, scared and have not a lot of experience. So when they leave Alexs shooting range, they feel much more confident and secure with their weapons and have gained some real knowledge of what they are going to be headed into. His job title in Kuwait was a Tactics trainer. Currently in Iraq he is a "ADVISOR TO THE IRAQI ARMY". He teaches them how to teach their soldiers so they can protect their own country. Currently, he frequently gets American troops in for training as well, but his job title is advisor to Iraqi army. Ok this is the 4th tour, but he does get to come home during tours as well.

When he is home one of the first places we go to is St. Helen Michigan. It is like a retreat for us, a place our 2 boys just love as well. Up north is a quality time place for us. I also take the boys up frequently after their dad has left for a tour. They seem to acclimate better to dads departure there. I also have a ton of family that goes there, my awesome Uncle Dennis as you. Family is good for you in times like these. I could have never made it through these past few years if not for my family. Alex knows this as well, in some ways it is our family that allows him to do his job. He knows when we go up north Uncle Dennis and the rest of the family is watching out for his wife and kids, and that makes him a little more at ease with his job.

Well I hope this helps you understand the man you are supporting, it is just wonderful that people like you show support. He loved the packages and plans to share with other American soldiers. He really liked the Christmas lights, funny sometimes its the simple things. This is our second Christmas approaching that we will be apart, but hopefully the last. I have most frequently called this job a "calling" for my husband. He is a dedicated man as well as a wonderful father and husband and I am truly blessed to have him.

Thanks again, and may God bless you.

Jaime Burrell-Herrera

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's almost COOKIE DAY!!

By the way, if anyone has been printing out cookie recipes, you should know that I made an error in the Cinnamon Sugar Cookies. I omitted the flour in the list of ingredients. One of my baking gals pointed it out for me, so I just went back and edited it. The recipe needs 2 1/2 cups of flour. It wasn't omitted in the directions, I guess I just skipped a line. It's all fixed now but I wanted to note it in case anyone had printed it. I hope no one made cookie soup because of me! Hmmm....well, if you did, let me know how it turned out...sounds kind of good! lol

I'm taking a one week break from Baking GALS...except necessities...I am concentrating this week on three things: COOKIE DAY, getting my house back in order (I put in three new windows last window treatments yet...neighbors might be sick of the show!), and catching up on some homework (I'm a part-time student in addition to the other craziness...I had been taking a break recently but the college harassed me into returning and taking two classes...problem is I didn't sign up til the class was already in session so I started two weeks I have lots of homework I need to get done!).
BUT, for the next couple days, COOKIES is my focus. I only do this once a year and I don't want to disappoint anyone by not being a cookie freak. Did I mention I made matching aprons for my bakers? lol...yep, I'm nuts!

Randy and I spent pretty much this entire weekend at my parents house. Randy lost his job a few months ago so he decided to catch himself a freezer full of meat...and my dad being the ultimate sportsman taught him to hunt. Anyway, they spent the weekend traipsing through the woods and my mom and I went shopping....good weekend, but not a ton got accomplished at my house. At least I got a little Christmas shopping done but I still have a ton to do.

I think I mentioned before that my mom is the one who's always pressuring me to cut back the cookie bake, then whenever she sees me she's showing me more recipes! Well, spending the entire weekend at her house, our cookie list has grown. We are now up to 29 types of cookies for this year, and I'm very much considering adding a No-Bake recipe if I can find one I like...maybe I'm a little OCD, but I like nice round numbers! (and if anyone has a really great no-bake cookie recipe they can share, I would love to have it!)
I doubt I'm going to have time to post all the new recipes before next weekend (pesky homework!), although I will post them eventually. Instead, I'll just explain to you all how I do the schedules. It's pretty simple really, I gather up all the recipes I want to use and then narrow it down to the number mom allows me (lol). Once I have all the recipes together, I start adding up all the ingredients we need. I divide the ingredients by the number of people participating in the cookie bake (six this year). In our case, I give my mom all the little spices and flavorings that we only need a little bit of, since she's got it all at her house already and there's no sense in someone buying a big jar or bottle of something we only need a teaspoon of. I also give her anything that might be a pain to transport for the others. Then I add to my list anything that is unusual or hard to find or that I think someone might not get the right one for the recipe so we don't have any nasty cookie day surprises. After that, I divide up the rest of the ingredients so all six lists come up equal. Mom and I try to estimate how much the ingredients cost on each list so everyone ends up spending around the same amount. This year, the estimate for each list was about $25. And we give out the lists early so that everyone can try to buy most of their things on sale. I also always make sure to get some of the basics on my list and mom's because we've been known to get up in the wee hours and get started (usually mixing dough that needs refrigeration).
After I get the ingredients divided, it's time to start the schedules. First, I read through each recipe to take note of which ones need to be mixed and refrigerated for a certain amount of time. Then I pile the recipes in front of me, divided by baking temp. I either start with the 300 degree recipes (as is the case this year) or the 400 degree ones and work my way up or down from there so we're not constantly adjusting the oven temp. I usually decide who goes first by looking at the piles...if a recipe in one or the other pile has icing or gets dipped in chocolate or something that has to set, etc, I do that end of the spectrum first so they have time to set longer before we divvy them up.
So once the cookies are in order by baking temp, I arrange them within the temp range. I try to arrange them with a lower prep one mixed with a higher prep to give us time to keep up with the oven. If I'm doing one bar cookie, I try to bake it with something else that I know we'll have three trays to bake, so the oven always has both racks full of cookies. So, then I start filling the cookies into a baking time chart....this year, it starts at 9am with the Cinnamon Sugar Cookies. I always allow for the maximum baking time and round up (if I have two ovens-full of cookies baking for 12 minutes each, I round up to 25 mins for the total...I know, generous, huh? lol). It always works out because most of the cookies don't take the max time to bake, especially when the oven is on all day, so we're usually ahead of schedule by a few minutes.
After the baking schedule, I do the "forming schedule" and the "mixing schedule" at the same time. It's pretty easy to figure out; you just look at the baking schedule and make sure the next cookie to bake is ready on time. I usually have two people mixing, two people forming (rolling out, cutting, forming balls, filling cookie trays). The other two people are baking and finishing the cookies (dipping in toppings, rolling in powdered sugar, etc.
I start the mixers with the first cookie to go in the oven, so they can send the batch to the forming table to be put on trays, then I have them work on the recipes that have to be refrigerated, starting with the one that needs the longest and going down the list. I usually schedule the cookies to be formed about 15 minutes before they bake, just in case we get ahead on the oven a little.
This year, my mom and I are going to bake the sugar cookies ahead so they have time to cool completely before we ice and decorate them. In previous years, we've baked part of them, or none at all beforehand, and that works too, but this year we're going to try to save our bakers by cutting 2 hours out of the baking schedule (we make eight batches!). All six of us will decorate them together at mid-day; the rest of the day everyone will be mostly at her station. The baker keeps the oven going...with so many cookies coming and going, it's important to have one person focused on them...the last thing we want is burned cookies! The finisher takes over where the baker ends, topping some cookies with chocolate bars and coconut (Chocolate Oat Chewies), swirling some in chocolate and nuts (Almond Chocolate Chippers), rolling some in powdered sugar (Sandies), etc...just all that fun little stuff that makes the cookies look so pretty and done.
Everyone gets a detailed list of their station's duties, along with the right tools to do the job and instructions about when to pass the recipe on to the next station. There are a few recipes that go straight from mixing to oven (bar cookies mostly) and some go to the fridge before's all really pretty simple. And there's always someone available to help one person get on track if they need it. The baker usually has some time while cookies are baking to do up a few dishes or help out with mixing, etc. No one is really over-worked, although it does tend to be a long day.
After all the baking, the finisher arranges the final cookies on the tables in the family room. We all go out there and admire our hard work, then we sit and have a cup of tea...maybe sample a cookie if we want to, or have a little snack. We sit and talk for a while, then everyone gets out her trays or containers and we walk around the tables filling them. I always have a list of who I'm giving trays to so I can tailor the tray to the recipients. I wrap them up airtight and put a removable tag on each one with the name and date I plan to give it out, then they go straight into a freezer until it's time to hand them out. I always bring a big tray to work the next day and that eats up most of my cookies. My mom likes to freezer hers all by type, then make trays up right out of the freezer when she wants one.
So, that's it...if anyone wants to plan a cookie bake, it's really not that hard, just a bit time really have to check the recipes twice to make sure you allow time for all the steps. I usually finish my schedules, then I take each recipe one at a time and read the steps, making sure they're all scheduled to be done. I've done any where from 25-42 cookies each year and most people come back for more cookie bake the next year!
And now, I'm off....gotta re-write my schedules now that we've added new recipes....I'll try to post again soon but it might not be til next week.

By the way, Baking GALS next round is going to be from December 5-18, so keep those baking supplies close by!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baking GALS: busy weekend!

Well, round 4 is over... I spent the weekend baking. I packed the box for Alex on Friday night and Randy mailed it on Saturday morning, then Saturday we went to my parents house. Randy was hanging out with my dad while my mom and I cut up her extra Halloween pumpkins, boiled them and made pumpkin mush, which was then turned into pumpkin pound cake. I brought home some of the extra mush and on Sunday baked some pumpkin-chip cookies along with two batches of oatmeal bars. We filled a second box with those and Randy mailed them to his friend Dan this afternoon.
Now it's on to round 5. We'll be mailing from December 5-18, so if my bakers are up for participating again, let me know. I'm not sure how Susan is handling it at the baking GALS site, whether you have to sign up again or what, but if you email me telling me you want to bake again in round five, I will be sure you get the mailing info!
I received a letter from Alex's wife today, thanking us for the goodies. I'm going to write her back in a few minutes and ask for her permission to post it here for all of you to see.
I'm up to my eyeballs in cookies right now. This crazy Cookie Bake requires a ton of organization to get it right, then throw in Baking GALS and I'm almost eating, sleeping and breathing cookies...not that that's a bad thing! At my mom's on Sunday though, she was pulling out recipes for cookies. She saves them all year, then tries to pile them on me at cookie time, while at the same time telling me I need to cut back and not make so many different kinds...grrr! Good thing I love that woman like no one else in this world!
I also got to see my mom's new kitchen for the first time since they got the countertops put in....they are gorgeous! I want granite too! Anyone want to donate $6000 to Val's new kitchen? lol...sure wish I could get myself that for Christmas but even I am not that generous to me...not this year anyway!
I hope the baking went well for all of Team JustAddNuts bakers. I got a few emails and pictures that I'm going to try to make into a collage and post here...I may have to get Randy to lend a hand with that one....he's the computer whiz, something I have never claimed to be. If anyone else has pictures they want to send, please do that soon. And feel free to send some with you and your helpers in them...we like smiles here at JustAddNuts to go with the cookies ;)
Well, that's it, I just thought it was time for a blog post here since I finally ran out of recipes from the '08 Cookie Bake. There might be one last minute substitution...I'm still trying to work in one of Mom's recipes...Chunky Monkey...who can go wrong with a name like that? I'll post the recipe next time I get a chance. I'm at work right now and I actually had to do a LOT of work tonight...usually it's quiet so I can't complain, but tonight I don't have time to do too much internet stuff so I'm signing off!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recipe # 25 Dipped Shortbread Fingers

This is it, the last of the 25 recipes!!! Woohoo, I made it!
We have been making various shortbread recipes since the first cookie bake. Most of them turn out nice but they tend to look a little boring which is a no-no for my cookie trays, so this is a new one we're trying this year and we're livening it up by dipping it in jimmies.

Dipped Shortbread Fingers

1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
white melting chocolate
red and green jimmies (look next to the decorator sugars)

Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, beating well as you add.
Shape 1/2 cup of dough into 1/2 inch diameter logs, cut logs into 2 inch pieces. (why are directions always so complicated??? Just form them into 2 by 1/2 inch logs!)
Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 325 degrees for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned.

After cookies are cool, dip or brush them with white chocolate and then sprinkle or dip them in the jimmies. Wala!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Recipe # 24 Ginger Sandwich Wafers

This is a recipe I adapted from a couple of others. I am kind of famous, or infamous depending on what they got to be the guinea pig for, for doing this. We haven't tried this one yet so I don't know if it's a winner or a flop. I normally don't mess with baking recipes and especially not until I've tried them once the original way, but I guess I was feeling adventurous when we made this year's line-up. I don't have the original recipes to share at the moment so I guess you'll all just have to bear with me....sorry!

Ginger Sandwich Wafers
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light molasses
1 large egg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups flour

Beat margarine, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add egg, orange peel and spices, beat until well blended. Stir in flour. Dough will be very stiff.
Divide dough in half. Roll each into an 8-inch log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in waxed paper and refrigerate at least 5 hours or up to 3 days.
Form dough into 1/2 inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass until they're about 1/4 inch thick.
Bake about 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool on wire racks.

Sandwich icing between two cookies. *We plan to use the same icing that we use for sugar cookies, but you can use any you like. Or melt something between them...caramel, marshmallow....whatever you like...and don't forget to tell me about it!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Recipe # 23 Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

This is another recipe that's attributed to Mrs. Fields. She must be a busy lady! Hopefully all of her cookies are good too. This one I haven't tried yet but since her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are so favored around our households, I was more than willing to give this one a trial in this year's bake.

3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar; packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter; softened (we'll probably use margarine though)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream butter with sugars to form a grainy paste. Scrape sides of bowl, then cream in eggs and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix together flour, soda and salt until well mixed, then add to butter mixture, blending on low until just combined. Do not over mix. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll each in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Immediately remove from pans for cooling.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recipe # 22 Praline Cookies

This is a stove top recipe, no baking. I'm always looking for a way to increase production without needing the oven longer. I found this recipe for last year's bake but it didn't make it to the list so we worked it in this year. My dad is a big fan of praline so hopefully he'll enjoy these.

Praline Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 5oz can evaporated skim milk
10 large marshmallows
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup nuts, chopped (we're going with pecans for this one)

Combine sugar, margarine and evaporated milk in saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 6 minutes. Remove from heat; add marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs and nuts. Mix until melted. Quickly drop onto wax paper to cool.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Recipe # 21 Toffee Squares

These are a new cookie for the '08 Bake. I'm not entirely sure where this recipe came from. We found it in our recipe collection on a little slip of paper. It kind of looks like something that got emailed to one of us and printed for the future. Well, the future is finally coming and these cookies will get their day in the oven. Hopefully they make the grade!

Toffee Squares
1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package MILK chocolate chips (oops, it specifies Nestle...I think I got a clue where this one originated)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream margarine, brown sugar, egg yolk and vanilla. Add salted flour. Mix well; batter will be stiff. Spread the batter into lightly buttered cookie sheet with sides (the recipe doesn't specify a size so we'll go with medium unless the dough volume seems to call for a bigger or smaller size when the time comes).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Melt chocolate in microwave (I hate this, I'll do mine on the stove over boiling water) and spoon over hot cookie dough. Sprinkle with pecans and cut into squares when cool. The recipe says 2 dozen but I'm thinkin it depends on how you cut them....boy am I a smart one :P

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recipe # 20 Peanut Butter

I have yet to find a Peanut Butter cookie recipe I think is perfect. I used to make some in my Easy Bake Oven that were fabulous, at least according to my memory, but I lost the recipe. I do remember it only had about four ingredients and the cookies were shaped like fists...well, maybe that was because I didn't understand the "form into balls" part so I just squeezed some dough together in my hand, lol! But they were also quite crumbly so they wouldn't really work for cookie trays anyway...sigh.
My mom prefers the peanut butter cookies where you press a chocolate kiss into them, but since we already have another cookie that has a kiss pressed in, we decided to go with another stand-by, the criss-cross fork tine pattern. They're easy, they taste good, they fit trays nice...sounds like a keeper to me.

Peanut Butter cookies
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Thoroughly cream margarine, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Blend in baking soda and flour, mixing well.
Shape into 1 inch balls, roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Press a fork's tine into each cookie twice at ninety degree angles. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheets.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Recipe # 19 Sugar Plums

And here's Monday's recipe I don't have to stress about this til Tuesday. Oh yeah, and don't forget to VOTE!!

This is a new recipe for Cookie Bake '08. We saw them in a magazine while picking this year's line-up. These ones are a bit of work, but we cut a few of the other time consuming recipes out this year so we decided we could afford the time to give them a try. Believe me, if they don't work out, they'll get cut fast! So far the only problem I see is finding plum flavored jam. I have looked more than once in three different stores and still haven't found it (and of course I put it on my own shopping list....grrrr!). I did find a few recipes on recipezaar for making it, so if it comes down to that I'll have to get my hands on a couple plums and whip some up the day before. Good thing I scheduled cookie day on a Sunday this year!

If anyone has made these or tried anything similar, I welcome your comments and input!

Sugar Plums
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
(*I plan to put the following 3 in the food processor together)
1/2 cup finely chopped raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons plum jam
6 Tablespoons melted butter
Decorator sugars---your choice. We're using red because our sugar cookies will have green covered.

Beat together the cup of butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt and baking powder. Stir. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Combine the finely chopped raisins, dates and pecans with the plum jam.
Break off rounded teaspoonfuls of dough. Form into 3/4 inch balls. Make a deep indentation in each ball. Put a 1/4 teaspoon of plum filling in each dent then pinch closed.
Chill the balls for 1 hour.
Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
After slightly cooling, but while cookies are still a bit warm, brush with the melted butter and then roll in the decorator sugar to coat. Cool completely before serving.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Recipe # 18 Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Walnut Cookies

Woohoo, got that last one in before midnight so now I only missed two days of recipe posting and I'll be on track again after posting this one :)
This recipe is said to have been "stolen" from Mrs. Fields. I don't know if that's true or not, but they are good enough to have been worth stealing. These have been a family favorite for years and years. I was visiting my cousin the weekend before last and she mentioned that she mixes up a big batch of these, forms them into balls and then keeps the balls in the freezer. She and her husband will pop a few out of the freezer and into the oven for a quick desert. I think that's a great idea and I hope I remember to follow her lead and do the same.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Walnut Cookies

1 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
12 oz chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we almost always use walnuts)

Cream the margarine and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in baking powder, baking soda and flour. Mix well. Stir in oatmeal. Gently stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Roll into large balls (the original recipe says golf-ball sized) and bake on lightly greased baking sheets for about 8-10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Recipe # 17 German Chocolate Bars

My mom found this recipe free in a magazine when they started making those Nestle Swirled Morsels. Those are the ones that mix the brown and white chocolates all in one little chocolate chip. These look beautiful so I really do recommend getting the swirled morsels. Another thing great about these cookies is that they're easy to cut and they keep their shape nice on a cookie tray. Oh yeah, and they taste good!

German Chocolate Bars

1 (18.25oz) German Chocolate Cake mix
1/3 cup margarine, softened
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg, unbeaten
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 unsweetened coconut, divided
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup swirled morsels, divided

Place the cake mix in a bowl and cut in the margarine and lightly beaten egg with a pastry blender until crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9 by 13 pan. Combine sweetened condensed milk, unbeaten egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Stir in 1 cup of coconut, the pecans and 1/2 cup of the swirled morsels. Spread evenly over base; sprinkle with remaining coconut and morsels. Lightly press down the morsels with your hand. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven (center will be almost set when done baking and feel firm when cool). them, cut them into the size bar you like and try not to eat all of them at once ;)

Getting behind!

Well, I knew this day would come sooner or later. I was doing good at sharing the 25 recipes for the Cookie Bake, but life has come between me and my blog as I knew it would. I am a few days behind sharing the cookie recipes. I'm so happy to be back to working midnights! Because of my wonderful new hours, I got to spend Halloween with my four favorite girls in the world, my nieces. Randy and I stopped at a costume shop before we went to my brother's to do the Trick or Treat thing and he got a prisoner costume for himself and another for his dog, Freddie. We saw the kids off and then handed out candy at their house while they were Trick or Treating in the neighborhood. Randy got a few good comments and I told everyone that we were all sitting around making the prisoner do the hard labor. One of the girls begging candy said to him "I hope this candy isn't poisoned!" Kids do say the darnedest things as the saying goes...and of course Randy being much wittier than I, had a snappy come-back, telling her "Nope, that was the last batch, you should be fine." I love it! My brother had brought his patio fire pit thingy out to the driveway so my parents and Randy and I sat around it as dark came on along with the cooler temperatures. It was a fun night! Even more so since I was afraid I was going to have to miss it this year.
On Saturday, we had a costume party of our own to go to. We got the prisoner costume because the biggest news around this area lately has been the mayor of Detroit getting in trouble for a sex/text message scandal and lying about it, which cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars it can ill afford. In fact, he finally started serving his jail time a few days before Halloween. So Randy was the mayor and I was his "best ho" (that's what he told everyone anyway, lol). It was fun, we had a great time at the party and everyone loved the costumes. I've been known to be attached to some rather low-cut styles, but I have NEVER gone out dressed quite as looking? I did on Saturday. Which was fine for the party but then Randy was thirsty and wanted a coke and he couldn't go in a store the way he was dressed, so guess which Best Ho had to go get her man a coke? Yep, that'd be me~~ I sooo wanted to tell the lady at the counter that I don't normally dress like that, but I just gave her my money and tried to pretend everything was
Today, I just hung out at Randy's house til it was time to leave for work. We went by his mom's earlier in the day to move this huge lighthouse we made her for last Christmas inside for the winter and share the Halloween pictures with her.
About all I did over the weekend as far as online updates went was answer a few Baking GALS emails. We are doing GREAT with our team! We have 12 members on our team and 9 of them have been in contact with me and gotten our soldier's address, so he and his buddies overseas should be filled with home-baked yummies very soon! I sent a letter to Alex on the 30th of Oct to warn him to watch for the boxes. Randy and I are planning to fill ours and get it in the mail on either Friday or Saturday, so we'll be posting pics here soon. I'm also hoping the other bakers will share at least a pic each...but I haven't started harassing them yet so we'll see! I wonder who will be the first to get a box in the mail...I bet one or two people have already done it. Randy and I had ours mailed out the first day of shipping last round, but all this organizing is a lot more work than the baking so I'm behind.
So there's my update on my life. Back to sharing cookie bake recipes now. Does anyone have interest in the way I divide the ingredients amongst my bakers and the schedules for the big day? If not, I'll spare the world my nuttiness in this instance and just share something new when I finish with the cookie recipes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Recipe # 16 Rocky Road Bars

This is a no-bake favorite. They can be a little bit soft if you put your cookie trays anywhere at all warm, but they're good and easy to make. I'm not always a fan of no-bake cookies, but these ones get my seal of approval.

Rocky Road Bars
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup mild chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)
6 cups miniature marshmallows

Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Heat chocolates and peanut butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows.
Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Cool. They can be cooled in the refrigerator if you choose.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ready, Set, BAKE!!

Okay everyone, the time is here…Today is Oct 29 so we begin shipping tomorrow. That means I have emailed everyone who's a confirmed baker Alex's address, along with info about the custom forms.
Our soldier for this round is SFC Alex Herrera. Alex is a husband and father of two sons. His family lives in the Sterling Heights, Michigan area and are anxious to see him return. This is Alex's fourth tour of duty. He has served our country in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is a member of the Army. I have sent Alex a letter to let him know our boxes will be arriving shortly, so he and the others serving alongside him will be on the lookout for your goodies!
All of my confirmed bakers should watch their email inboxes for an email from me. It should arrive today (Wednesday the 29th). If you have NOT received the email, contact me at and I'll try to fix things. Round 4 runs for 12 days so there is still time to get your package out if you want to.
Our mailing dates are between Oct 30 and Nov 10. After you have shipped out your box, please drop me an email to let me know how it went. I'm anxious to hear your stories or see pictures of your baking and boxes! I would love to post them on my blog too. By the way, the little flag cookies next to our team name at baking GALS are a sample of the sugar cookies that Randy and I sent out last round.
If anyone has any problems or questions, please drop me an email and I'll certainly try to help.
PACKING COOKIES: there seems to be a lot of information out there on the net about the best way to pack our goodies. Last round, Randy and I individually wrapped each cookie in cellophane and packed them pretty tightly. This time I think I'm going to cut the bars and then wrap them as sheets to pack more in my box. Some people vacuum seal their cookies, and some pack them in Ziploc containers. The most important thing is that you pack them securely so that they aren't being beat against the side of the box during shipping. If you have extra space in your box, pack it with something soft. I used napkins last round to top off my box, but anything soft that can fill the space will work. Be creative and try to think of something the soldiers can use! If anyone comes up with a great idea, be sure to share it with the rest of us.
****Also, it is a great idea to send a personal note along with the cookies, rather than just an unexplained box!

Recipe # 15 Choco-caramel Cookies

This is a new one for our 2008 bake. My mom clipped it out of a magazine a while back and she wanted to try it. Sounds good but I'll review it after the bake!

Choco-Caramel Cookies
48 Hershey's Caramel Kisses
1 cup margarine
2 Tablespoons butterscotch sundae topping (like Smuckers)
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons imitation butter flavoring
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup raw sugar (turbinado sugar)...for rolling

Beat butter, butterscotch topping, brown sugar and butter flavoring until well blended. Add eggs, beat well.
Gradually add the salt and flour, blending well. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in turbinado sugar.
Bake on ungreased sheets at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes, or until set. Press an unwrapped Caramel kiss into the center of each cookie as you remove from heat. Cool completely.

Recipe #14 Pecan Tassies

These are Randy's favorites so they've been a part of the cookie bake for as long as I've known him. They're kind of like little mini pecan pies.

Pecan Tassies
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup flour
Blend the cream cheese and margarine together, then stir in the flour until smooth and refrigerate for 1 hour. After refrigerating, shape the dough into 24 1-inch balls and press them into the bottom and up the sides of 24 ungreased mini-muffin pans.

1/2 cup coarsely broken pecans
Place 1 teaspoon of the pecans in each crust

1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon softened margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the above four ingredients together just until smooth. Divide evenly among Tassies.

1/2 cup coarsely broken pecans
Top each tar with 1 teaspoon again.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool and remove from mini muffin tins.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recipe # 13: Snowball Jewels

This is one I can't quite recommend yet. My mom made something like this years ago and we both remember it as being wonderful, but she misplaced the recipe. I searched high and low last year to find what we thought was a similar recipe and ahead we went. Unfortunately, last year these spread a bit too much and the edges were crispy...we weren't very impressed. We included them in this year's cookie bake just in case it was something we did wrong that made them not-so-great. I did look for a new recipe to try, but didn't come up with one we thought would be better so if they don't turn out this year, well...there are plenty of other recipes waiting to take their place in my list!!

Snowball Jewels
1 14 oz package of coconut
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup M&Ms

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.

Using moistened spatula, immediately remove from cookie sheet to cool on wire racks.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Baking GALS: most current goodie list

Here's the latest update to the list of goodies going out from team Nutty this round. This doesn't mean you can't send the same thing, I just wanted to make sure we all don't send the same.

  • chocolate chip cookies
  • peanut butter cookies
  • oatmeal and oatmeal raisin bar cookies
  • Texas Tumbleweeds
  • Mini Muffins - probably pumpkin or lemon
  • Homemade Granola
  • Walnut Luck Cookies
  • Butter Cookies
  • Cowboy Cookies (basically chocolate chips, oatmeal and nuts)

If you're a baker and you've decided what to send, please let me know here or by email so I can add it to our list.

Recipe # 12: Jam Thumbprints

Another family stand-by. These differ from a lot of thumbprint recipes because you actually bake them with the jam in, instead of adding the jam after they're baked. We like that better because we think it makes them less messy/sticky. My personal favorite is raspberry jam, and I like the seeds, but I guesssssss you can use whatever you like....

Jam Thumbprints

1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (any kind)
1/3 cup seedless jam (any flavor, and I like the seeds!)

In a large bowl, cream the margarine, shortening and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add about half the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Add sour cream and mix until well blended. Add the remaining flour and mix well.
Shape into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll in nuts. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Make a 1/2 inch deep dent in each cookie and fill it with jam.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recipe # 11: Chocolate Oat Chewies

This is a Cookie Bake stand by. They can be a little bit tedious, due to the extra steps as they come out of the oven, but they look and taste delicious so we make them every year! My mom found mini chocolate bars in a bulk food store one time and they worked even nicer than the Hershey's bars, we thought...the smaller size was just right. I also like to use leftover Halloween Hershey's bars as an alternative to the big ones.

Chocolate Oat Chewies
1 (18.25 oz) Moist Devil's Food Cake mix
1 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup coconut, toasted and divided
3/4 cup margarine, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 1.5 oz milk chocolate bars, broken into small rectangles (you end up with 60 pieces)

Combine cake mix, oats, 1/2 cup coconut, margarine, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
Cover and chill for 15 minutes.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls.
Bake at 350 degrees, 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets for 12 minutes.
Immediately upon removing from oven, press one chocolate bar rectangle into the middle of each cookie and then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/2 cup of toasted coconut.
Remove to cooking racks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Recipe # 10: Candy Cane Puffs

These cute little cookies are kind of a Cookie Bake creation. I believe we found the recipe in a book or magazine a few years ago, but we came up with the decorations ourselves, and that's what makes them a repeat for about 3 years running.

Candy Cane Puffs

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup margarine

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6-8 oz white chocolate, melted

1/2 cup finely crushed candy canes (put a couple candy canes in the food processor)

Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Add egg, peppermint and vanilla. Beat well. At low speed, beat in flower. Wrap in plastic and chill for one hour.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on racks.

Brush just the top with melted white chocolate, then dip in crushed candy canes. Allow to set.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cookie # 9: Chocolate Ting-a-Lings

Can you say EASY?? With making so many different kinds of cookies in one day, oven time is always an issue so I try to mix in a few no-bake cookies to help us keep up. I'm not always fond of no-bake recipes, but this is one that's a multiple time repeat. And with only three ingredients, how much easier could it be??

Chocolate Ting-A-Lings

1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup salted peanuts
2 cups chow mein noodles

Melt chocolate morsels (any method, double boiler, microwave, whatever works for you). Stir in peanuts and chow mein noodles. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil or wax paper. Refrigerate (optional) to harden. These freeze very well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Baking GALS: We officially have a soldier!

I put a bulletin up on the Baking GALS site, but I wanted to let you all know here too, in case you aren't hanging out there, that I have an address for our soldier. His name is Alex and his uncle (my co-worker) is having his wife email me a little bio to share with you. I'll post it as soon as I get it.
In the meantime, I DO have his APO address, so warm up those ovens! It's only a week till we start mailing!

*Keeping things up to date, here's our list of goodies already going out. Please email me or post here as soon as you know what you'll be sending.
  1. chocolate chip cookies
  2. peanut butter cookies
  3. oatmeal and oatmeal raisin bar cookies

*If you've joined our team at baking GALS but have not emailed me yet, please do so very soon. I need to be in contact with you in order to email you Alex's address. My intention is to email all of my bakers with it on the evening of October 29, less than ONE week away!

*If any of my bakers need suggestions or help as to what to send, how to send it, or anything AT ALL, please email me or ask here. I will help in ANY way I can!

Cookie # 8 Spritz

These are the ones you need a cookie press for. We always tint our dough green and make either trees or wreaths with it. One year, we tried making reindeer but they ended up looking like dogs and most of the heads broke off in the process. This is a kind of plain cookie. They do taste good and not too sweet which is nice, but personally I would skip them on cookie trays if my mom didn't love them so much. I just like the fancy ones on my trays better. However, I never refuse to sample one!

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour

Cream together margarine, shortening and sugar at medium speed. Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well. Work in flour until well blended. Tint if desired. Force through cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with decorations if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, until set but not brown. Cool slightly before removing from sheets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Baking GALS: What to put in your box

NOTE: There is still time to sign up for baking if you haven't yet:, team Just Add Nuts!

Those of you who are signed up to bake for my team this round know that it's up to you to fill up your box and get it sent, but I thought I'd open up a discussion for ideas in case anyone is wondering.
The first priority would be to make sure whatever you send will arrive in good condition. Last round, Randy and I sent oatmeal cookie bars and chocolate chip cookie bars, as well as some sugar cookies. There's a small pic of the sugar cookies on the baking gals site on our team page. I don't think we'll be doing sugar cookies this round, even though I love them because they look so pretty! It just was really hard on me to make cookies without the frosting. I know they taste so much better with it, but I was afraid it would melt and be smooched on the trip over..which would be even more disastrous. So we made them without icing...they were okay I guess, but not what I really wanted to do. The oatmeal cookies, on the other hand, turned out wonderfully and we'll probably be doing them again this round. I'm thinking we may just do enough oatmeal cookies to fill the box, probably some with raisins added and some plain. I will share that recipe eventually too, but I'm "working" (hehe) right now and don't have it available...besides, I want our soldier to get variety!
I did think of a few other ideas for things that might ship well. I was thinking unsliced quick breads (pumpkin would be nice this time a year) would be good, or muffins. Also, a lot of soldiers like healthy snacks, so trail mix would be great, or some healthy snack bars or protein bars.
Since it will be Halloween right after the mailing starts, maybe some candy would be a good idea too. I don't have any candy recipes really, but if that's your specialty, give it a whirl. I'm not sure about sending chocolates, since I don't know what kind of conditions our boxes will encounter as they make their way to our soldier.
Also, if you don't have quite enough baked goods to fill your box, you are welcome to send other things along with the goodies. Use common sense here though! Obviously, nothing illegal (no pirated DVD's, etc), but also, think about what you're sending and how it will mix with your baked goods. No lotions, shampoos, fabric softener sheets, things like that...they will only ruin your whole box. Even if you double wrap them in ziplock bags, it's not worth the risk. I have read online that if it can leak on the trip over, it will...and I don't want a day of baking to go to waste because I had to send a bottle of lotion too. And I've read that fabric sheets and other air fresherners tarnish the taste of the entire box. Last round, Randy and I included some magazines and some extra DVD's my dad had. We used them at the bottom and sides of our boxes, kind of as shields for the cookies. We also filled up the top of the box with napkins...we figured that would come in handy with a hundred cookies! Our soldiers especially thanked us for the DVDs. They are really missing home over there, so letters from you or your kids or friends, or anyone really, are greatly appreciated, as well as stationary and envelopes so they can write to their loved ones. Also, anything to entertain them in their down-time is really enjoyed. Remember, they spend long days in the desert (or other not so fun places), and then for their down-time, they get to come "home" to a tent or trailer and sit....eating and sleeping only take up so much time, so something to entertain them in some small way is always a good thing. Footballs, softballs, other sporting equipment, puzzles, books, games, movies, magazines (even older ones). Another suggestion is things to decorate their areas, pictures, posters, strings of lights, holiday decorations, pictures from your kids, new socks, wash cloths, pillowcases...all of those are nice extras.
That is in NO way saying you have to put anything except baked goods in your box, those are just suggestions in case you have a little space left. Since we pay $10.95 to send a box no matter how much it weighs, we wanted to fill every single empty spot in our boxes. We baked mostly bar cookies because I thought they would pack closer. Last round, we individually wrapped each cookie in plastic wrap. This round, I'm considering wrapping the entire pan of cookies in plastic and mailing them whole. I think I can fit about 9 (9x13) batches in my box that way. I'm thinking that the cookies will stay fresher in a big block than smaller pieces. I'll probably include a box of plastic knifes for cutting them up too, and also pack some napkins like last time. We still have a few of the DVD's my Dad donated, so our soldier will be getting some of those too.
For the baked goods, you need a recipe that doesn't need refrigeration, and something that will stay moist for a few days. Last round, we baked on Sunday, mailed on Monday, and got our first thank you on Thursday, so that wasn't too bad. I had a few of the oatmeal cookies left and we ate some a few days later...still yummy, so I think that recipe was a winner!
I'm going to be emailing everyone on the team to see what they think they might be sending, just so we make sure his unit gets a variety. If any of the team members are reading this, feel free to email me if you've already decided, or comment on this blog entry or the baking gals site.
Happy baking...I hope you're all getting as excited as I am!!

Recipe # 7: Coconut Nests

This is a recipe I found somewhere for our first ever cookie bake. I don't remember where I even found it, but they were a hit so we've made them every year since. They look different than other cookies and they're easy to make and more importantly, they taste good! One of my girl-friends who participated in the first few bakes brought her six-year-old daughter one year, and she enjoyed participating by counting out piles of eight chocolate chips for these cookies. Even if you don't have an available six-year-old for child labor, it's still worth taking the time to count them out and place the chocolate chips neatly in the least I think so...and I'm not anal about my cookies...oh, no, not me! lol

Coconut Nests
3 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
14 oz flaked coconut
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (about a cup)

Grease 36 miniature muffin pan cups

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in sugar and beat in until whites stand in stiff glossy peaks. Beat in vanilla. Stir in coconut. Spoon mixture by heaping tablespoons into prepared muffin pan cups. With the end of a wooden spoon handle (or your finger), form an indentation in the center of each cup, pressing coconut mixture up the sides. Place 8 chocolate chips in each nest, point up.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then use a fork to carefully lift the nests from the pans.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday's Recipe: Almond Chocolate Chippers

This recipe was a new one for the 2007 Cookie bake. Randy's uncle and his family loved them so much they asked for the recipe....FOUR times! lol. Apparently they tried to make them but they didn't turn out the same as ours, so they thought they'd gotten the recipe wrong...I think it was probably a matter of the memory being better than the actuality, but anyway, after that we had to include them in the 2008 bake as well!

Almond Chocolate Chippers

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Beat margarine with sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and almond extract. Add baking soda and flour and beat well. With spoon, stir in 1 cup milk chocolate chips and slivered almonds.

Using about 1 teaspoon of dough, form into a log shape. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes, til edges are slightly browned.

Let stand for 2 minutes before removing from baking sheets.

Cool completely. Dip one end in melted milk chocolate, then in chopped almonds.

Yield is about 3 dozen cookies

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sunday's recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

If you make these, send some to my dad...he loves these things. Won't eat them without the raisins though. LOL...on second thought, just don't let us know if you make them....He would eat the whole batch!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
3 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup raisins (omit or adjust amount to taste)

Cream together shortening, sugar and brown sugar. Add remaining ingredients in order, mixing well. Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes at 325 degrees.

Saturday's recipe: Cinnamon Spirals

Mmm, these are one of my absolute favorites. My mom used to let us make little cinnamon rolls with left-over pie dough when my brother and I were kids. These cookies remind me just a little of those, so maybe that's why, but they seem to be a big hit on most cookie trays too. Plus they look nice! I almost always double the recipe.

Cinnamon Spirals
1/2 cup margarine, softened
4 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat together, at medium speed, the margarine and cream cheese until creamy. Reduce the mixer speed and gradually beat in the flour until well mixed. Pat the dough into a small flat rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Once dough is firm enough to roll, flour a surface and rolling pin and roll it into a 15 by 12 inch rectangle. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Starting on a long side, roll up the dough, jelly roll style into a log. Brush the last 1/2 inch with a little water to help it seal. Cut the log in half, re-wrap it and put it back in the refrigerator for another 2 hours or so, until it's firm enough to slice (I've been known to put mine in the freezer to speed up the process, but keep an eye on it!).
Slice the roll into 1/4 inch slices and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

Baking GALS, I found us a soldier!!!

Since Randy's friend is in training in the states right now, I have been asking around to try to find us a soldier for this round. I asked people I know who have served and returned, people who are vets of other wars, friends, family and co-workers, even asked on a couple message boards! Do you believe, no one had anyone they knew overseas at the moment? That's good I guess, but I didn't want a team with no soldier. Well, just now, I asked a few more co-workers...and of course I got THREE soldiers! lol...I guess when it rains it pours. Well, one of them is the nephew of a former partner of mine, and he was very excited about the idea, so I told him to get me the address and a little bio on his nephew. So far, I know he's served four tours...this might even be his fifth...and has a wife and two children at home. I will pass on more info as I get it. I just found out about two hours ago that my job is switching my hours all around so I'll be working midnights next week and I should see Dennis (the uncle) on Monday night as I come in for the night and he leaves for the night and hopefully he'll have the address and more info then. The other two soldiers, I will try to find teams to sponsor, or maybe we can do one of the others next round.
I hope everyone is having a great Friday! I got up early to make the two Truffle recipes I mentioned early. Unfortunately, I had two million (give or take) things to get done today and I didn't have time to roll them into actual truffles yet, so they're in their bowls in a cooler in my car, waiting patiently for me to finish them! If they turn out good, I'll post the recipes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday's recipe

And now, Friday's recipe...

I think these might be called snowballs in some circles. At least they look alike. We've always called ours Sandies, probably because they taste a bit like those store-bought cookies, Pecan Sandies (even though we usually use walnuts in ours).

1 cup margarine
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts work great)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add ingredients in order listed, mixing well as you go.
Chill dough for at least 4 hours.
Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls.
Bake cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool and roll in powdered sugar. These freeze well, but usually need the powdered sugar refreshed after thawing them.
Makes 36 cookies.

Thursday's Cookie recipe

See, I'm on the second recipe and I'm already late! I guess it's evident why I didn't promise...

It's been a pretty hectic week. We have a wedding to go to on Saturday, a friend of Randy's family. It's the second wedding for both the bride and groom so they don't need a lot of "things" as gifts but money is so impersonal that I hate to give just straight cash. One of the things that did come up is that they need some coffee cups. So I hatched the idea to find them some really cool mugs and then make up some coffee mixes to include in the box...that with a little cash seemed like the perfect idea to us...right up until I thought TRUFFLES! Lol. So now, I have three coffee mixes, one hot cocoa mix, and one orange dreamsicle mix (the groom has an eleven year old daughter) made and bagged up, ingredients to make two kinds of truffles in the morning...and we STILL haven't found the "perfect" mugs! I swear...well, actually, I'd better not here, but if I could, I bet there's a perfect expression for this situation!

And then aside from that, I'm excited to be a Baking GALS host, getting that set up, and I'm busy planning the November Crazy Cookie Bake. I have the initial schedules done and the ingredient lists passed out...earlier than any previous year and a good thing too with the price of groceries...hopefully everyone can get things on sale.

So anyway, there's my excuses, now here's your recipe:
This is a family favorite. Growing up, my mom used to make an extra batch of these because my brother would eat one entire batch by himself...frozen! She would bake early, freeze a few batches, and come back to find only half of the turtle bars left. My brother has always been the skinniest one of the family and doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but for some reason he loves these particular goodies.

Turtle Bars
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
2/3 cup margarine (yes, you need more)
1/2 cup brown sugar (and more)
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (that's just a handful less than a full 12oz bag, wink, wink)

For crust, beat first three ingredients for 2 or 3 minutes at medium speed. Pat firmly into ungreased 9 by 13 pan.

Press pecan halves firmly into crust. It is a little tedious, but they look so much nicer if you try to put them in half-way straight rows.

For caramel layer, in a saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir the 2/3 cup margarine and 1/2 cup brown sugar til boiling. Boil for 30 seconds, remove from heat and pour evenly over the crust and pecans.

Bake for 20 minutes in a 325 degree oven, or until the caramel layer is bubbly. Remove from the oven. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Wait 2 or 3 minutes for them to melt, then spread them evenly over the top with the back of a spoon.

Cool completely before cutting. They work best cut into 1 inch squares and freeze well...AND, they're even good frozen...I'll give you my brother's number if you don't believe me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's official, I'm a BAKING GAL!!

I have a habit of making short stories long, but I'll try to do the opposite here since it's late and I have to get up early.
Randy has a friend, Dan, who was a school teacher in New Jersey on 9/11. He saw, firsthand, the horror of that day. He has since changed careers, and is now in the military. Randy has been wanting to send Dan a care package and we both had been wanting to do something to show our support for our brave soldiers overseas. The solution was obvious, since I'm a crazy cookie maker. We decided to make a day of it and send out some love to the soldiers. Unfortunately, aside from Dan, we didn't personally know of anyone else to send them to and that's not the kind of thing you can send to someone who doesn't know you, so we were at a loss until Randy found Operation Baking Gals. After sending in our information (so they knew we were safe), we joined four teams and sent out care packages filled with cookies and DVDs.
Now, we are heading up a team and looking for volunteers to bake for our team, "Just Add Nuts". If you're a baker and interested in being on our baking team, please send me an email: We can get started by you sending me your full name and address, and telling me something about you and why you want to participate. Also, please sign up on the Baking Gals website: . You can join our team, or a different one.
I will eventually put up more information about packaging the cookies and sending them out. There is also some information on the baking gals site.
So wow, that's all I have to say for now, I think this is my shortest blog yet! lol
Have a good night everyone,

A cookie a day...

Well, it probably won't be keeping the doctor away, but it sure would be yummy!
I'd like to promise to post a cookie recipe daily (yes, I have that many!) but I'm not that foolish. I know myself well enough to know that eventually something will come up and I'll get busy or forget or not be home or...well, just about anything could come up in my crazy life. BUT, since I've posted about the 2008 Cookie Bake, I do promise to post all 25 recipes that we'll be using this year, and I'll get them up before baking day (November 23). I'll try to post at least one a day until I get them all up, but don't forget it's football season and we do love our football weekends...and baking cookies for tailgating, so don't expect too much of me!
I'll start the endeavour out right though by posting recipe #1 today. This is for my mom's Sugar cookies, believe me, you can NEVER go wrong with these! We've always called them Cut-Outs.

Sandy's Cut-Out Cookies
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 1/2 cups flour

Mix ingredients in order in a large bowl. You can use an electric mixer until the flour makes it too hard to mix, then switch to a wooden spoon or your own hands (kids love this!). You may need extra flour if the dough is too sticky to roll out.

Roll dough out on a floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shape with a floured cookie cutter, or a butter knife (we used to trace our hands when we were growing up, sometimes decorating them to look like turkeys around Thanksgiving creative!).

Bake cookies on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Don't over-bake! Cookies are done when a fingerprint lightly pressed into the center pops back up. The bottom will be very slightly browned

Carefully remove warm cookies to cooling rack. When the cookies are completely cool, ice and decorate the side that was down on the cookie sheet, then decorate and let the icing set for a couple hours before packing them for storage. Keep them in a covered container or they freeze well for about 2-3 months.

This recipe makes a pretty large batch of cookies but the number depends on the cookie cutter you choose. We tend to get about 4 dozen cookies out of each batch. You can also cut the recipe in half.

Sandy's Icing

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream together all ingredients, adding a bit more powdered sugar or milk to achieve the desired consistency. After the icing is mixed, divide it and color each portion if you like. Paste colors tend to work best, but liquid food coloring is fine too, you just may have to add more powdered sugar to keep the consistency you like.

Ice the cookies and immediately sprinkle on any colored sugar or candies you wish to use. Set the cookies aside for the icing to set...or just eat them now!



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cookie Day 2008

This year's Crazy Cookie day will take place on November 23. As I mentioned in my first blog, I've cut down to 25 cookies for the day. This is really bothering me though and I spent a lot of today online looking at more recipes...shhh, don't tell anyone! But as of now, there remain only 25 cookies on my list and I've already divided up the ingredients into six grocery lists. I hand them out as early as I can so that the participants get a chance to buy ingredients on sale. Even at regular price the ingredients shouldn't be more than around $30 per person, so that's still not bad for 25 different kinds of cookies to give as gifts or share at holiday get togethers.

Here's 2008's list:

  1. Sugar Cookies
  2. Turtles
  3. Sandies
  4. Cinnamon Spirals
  5. Oatmeal Raisin
  6. Almond Chocolate Chippers
  7. Coconut Nests
  8. Spritz
  9. Chocolate Ting-A-Lings
  10. Candy Cane Puffs
  11. Chocolate Oat Chewies
  12. Jam Thumbprints
  13. Snowball Jewels
  14. Pecan Tassies
  15. Choco-Caramel Cookies
  16. Rocky Road Bars
  17. German Chocolate Bars
  18. Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Walnut Cookies
  19. Sugar Plums
  20. Peanut Butter
  21. Toffee Squares
  22. Praline Cookies
  23. Cinnamon Sugar Cookies
  24. Ginger Sandwich Wafers
  25. Shortbread Fingers

And that's it...for now...stay tuned for updates and some shared recipes from this year's bake...